In a workplace, managers have arguably the biggest influence on staff wellbeing.
Which begs the question, do your managers support the people they oversee?
Too often, the answer is no.
Gallup claims 52% of exiting employees say their manager or organisation could have done something to prevent them leaving. Also, it says 70% of the difference of engagement between teams can be solely attributed to the manager.
The influence of a manager on staff wellbeing, and therefore workplace performance, is hard to overstate.
What does supporting a team entail?
Becoming a manager involves learning new skills in how to get the most from your people.
The overall goal is to empower the team to perform, and there are a range of different aspects that feed into that goal.
One of those is supporting the wellbeing of your team members, so they’re encouraged, engaged and motivated to do the best job they can do.
In order to do that, managers need to be able to recognise the level of support each team member needs, or when someone needs extra support, and have the ability to deliver it to the required degree.
Supportive managers create a psychologically safe work environment where people feel able to contribute fully without fear of being judged or disadvantaged.
Training to meet the needs of workers
Deloitte research found that just 41% of private sector organisations, and only 15% of public sector organisations, said they gave managers specialist mental health and wellbeing training.
Managers are the primary contact for people when they’re going through tough times, and their ability to effectively handle the situation and support the individual has huge consequences.
- One in five New Zealand workers say they’re always or often stressed at work
- 27% of workers felt depressed most of the time
- Nearly 20% of Kiwis say they’ve been bullied at work, and 40% say they’ve seen other people being bullied
- Only a quarter of New Zealanders are considered to be flourishing at work
These are just a handful of factors and issues that managers have to deal with, on top of proactively creating a supportive, nurturing environment where people can thrive.
Training managers to support their teams
The Harvard Business Review highlights a handful of effective techniques for managing managers:
1. Model behaviour
As a senior manager, one of the best things you can do for team leaders is to be a role model for them.
The first person a manager needs to support is themselves. By showcasing good wellbeing and self care practises yourself, you encourage them to do the same.
It’s easy to fall into the misconception that wellbeing initiatives are only for ground-level staff, and don’t apply to managers. But a manager’s mindset and state of mind influences all their team members, so there are significant flow-on effects that stem from how they feel.
One of the best ways to encourage managers to take care of themselves is to do it yourself. Again, wellbeing should be a priority for all.
Deloitte research shows leaders can miss the mark on this point, with only 73% of senior managers saying they’re always or mostly good role models for mental health and wellbeing practices.
2. Talk about their coaching
It’s very easy to talk around the way managers are coaching and leading their teams. For example, you might ask, “How are things going with the team?”, where a better question could be, “How are things going with Sam?”.
Asking a direct question about a specific person gives them the opportunity to get into the details. Asking a generic question will probably result in a generic answer.
As Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill says, talking directly about coaching gives you the opportunity to give feedback, and it sends a signal that these things are important.
Hill also recommends asking managers how much time they’re spending on coaching. This reinforces that they should be making time for it, as it can be something that easily falls off managers’ radars when things get busy.
3. Compliment them in front of their team
Praising managers in front of their team is a powerful technique for helping to shape the way team members perceive them.
First, it reinforces their credibility with their staff, who can look to you for clues about their manager. Showing that you respect them and the job they’re doing shows their direct reports they’re worthy of their respect too, which smooths the way forward.
As with other modelled behaviour, it also provides an example that encourages them to praise their people when they deserve it too.
4. Be involved
It takes time for someone to learn to be a manager, and lessons they learn early on can stick in their mind.
Rather than leaving them to it, consider taking a more active role in their development. Work together where you can, sit in on their meetings and observe them in action.
This isn’t about micromanaging everything they do - it’s important to be supportive rather than overbearing - but it’s a chance to genuinely nurture them and guide their development.
Consider it like a management apprenticeship. Be mindful to give them constructive feedback in private so you don’t undermine them in front of their team.
You should also be wary of giving them enough space to figure out a management approach that’s authentic to them too.
Different people have different ways of doing things. Your personal style will be different to theirs - the important thing is to recognise the difference between a universal truth and an individual approach.
5. Use actual training
Management courses exist for a reason. They use expert trainers with genuine teaching experience to upskill managers according to best practice.
All you have to do is use them.
Courses, conferences and seminars are all great tools, whether they’re online or in person.
Clearhead’s personal growth tools and techniques are also useful resources that managers (and other staff) can work through at their leisure.
It helps people to recognise both their strengths and weaknesses, and provides guided development opportunities that are customised to the individual.
Clearhead helps to guide skill development and self awareness that supports personal growth alongside its traditional EAP service. This is one way Clearhead proactively supports mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, by giving individuals the personal and professional support they need to thrive.
For more information, check out a free Clearhead demo today.